Devin Pryor’s Second Chance
It was the last game of the season. More importantly, it was the last game of his football career. And Devin Pryor wanted to make sure he went out on top with championship.
Pryor was no stranger to the big game. His team made it to the championship game the previous year, but fell just short.
His football team, the Alconbury Dragons, fell behind 7-0 late in the first quarter. However, that would be the only time the Dragons trailed. On the next possession Pryor, who played running back and safety, would break off two long 21 yards runs on consecutive plays for a touchdown.
“He was the go to man and if you needed a score he would always come through,” said Kimo Kuheana the Dragons’ defensive coordinator. “We asked him to step it up a lot and he always delivered.”
Pryor’s dominance on the field continued. On his way to rushing for 332 yards he broke off touchdown runs of 14, 53 and 77 yards. The Dragons won 31-13 and captured the DODDS-Europe Division III football championship.
It was the final game of his football career, or so he thought.
Pryor played his high school football in Europe and needless to say it was far from the norm.
He graduated from Alconbury High school in England in 2010. The school, stationed on Royal Air Force base Alconbury, is two hours north of London. At Alconbury, grades 6 through 12 average 250 students total. Pryor’s graduating class only had 30 students.
Alconbury played a different type of football. In 2008 the league switched to nine man football. The switch was made due to dwindling numbers at Division III schools as military bases downsized. Division III is the smallest league of Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe.
The rules of nine man football eliminated an offensive tackle and a wide receiver. A tight end is permitted to be used a sixth linemen or a receiver. On defense two defensive backs are eliminated.
With less players on the field it opened things up for Pryor.
“They switched to nine man during my sophomore year and the difference wasn’t too great, but was great for me,” said Pryor. “It basically just took four men off the field and gave me a lot of open space to operate.”
Pryor grew up in a military family. His mother served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. Her job took Pryor from his birth place of Los Angeles, Calif., to Colorado. It wasn’t until 2002 that Pryor moved to England.
” I first moved to England over Christmas break while I was in fifth grade,” said Pryor.
Pryor lived in England until he graduated. His family still lives in England. After retirement his mom took a job as a contractor near RAF Alconbury.
His family living in England has had its problems. This past summer was the first he wasn’t able to spend with his family because of his commitment to Penn State’s football team.
“It was very difficult, especially seeing many of his friends back home from college,” said Mary Hartley, Pryor’s mom. “It’s a big sacrifice for Devin but he is committed to all he does and I know his dedication and determination will pay off for him and the team.”
Pryor’s journey to Penn State was almost derailed before it even started. Alconbury had no junior high or middle school football programs. For many students their first time playing football is in ninth grade. DODDS rules prevent seventh and eighth grade students to travel outside the country. Most of Alconbury’s competition is on mainland Europe.
Pryor didn’t even consider playing football until his friends did.
“I started during my freshman year and honestly had never thought about playing football until all my friends decided too,” Pryor said. “I kind of jumped on the bandwagon with that one.”
Weighing in at only 140 pounds with a 5’7″ frame, not much was expected from Pryor.
“When I first met Devin in 2008 he was undersized,” said Kuheana.
Although undersized, Pryor still put up monster numbers with the Dragons. In two seasons as the starting running back Pryor rushed for 2,965 yards and 35 touchdowns. He was also voted All-Europe two times.
Playing in Europe gave Pryor the opportunity to travel. During his career he has played games in Brussels, Germany, Spain and Italy. Travel to the games was often an issue resulting in long trips on the road. A seven hour bus ride from England to Brussels was considered a short trip.
“The longest trip I had was sixteen hours to Hanau, Germany. All the flights were short, the longest was two and half hours to Sigonella, Italy,” said Pryor.
His favorite place to play?
“My favorite place to play was either Rota, Spain or Rammstein, Germany because their bases were massive compared to ours and had way more things to do,” said Pryor. “Rota might have the edge because they have a beach right outside their base that we made a few visits to.”
Despite his success Pryor was skeptical about whether he could play at the next level. Colleges rarely recruit kids overseas.
“The competition was subpar compared to the game in the states and gave little exposure to players who excelled,” said Pryor. “But there’s definitely a lot of talented players overseas who just need a chance.”
Pryor’s school is a great example. Alconbury high school has had four former athletes go on to Division I programs in the last five years. Former Dragon receiver Tyler Lucas is also a Nittany Lion. Lucas did not graduate from Alconbury but played two seasons with the Dragons before moving to Bellefonte in 2009.
“As a football coach at a small school you never think that you would ever be able to coach student-athletes who would get the opportunity to play Division IA football but I was blessed to see four former Alconbury Dragons make it,” said Kuheana.
Pryor never planned to walk on at Penn State. However, consistent pressure from friends and coaches eventually swayed Pryor.
Pryor’s walk on tryout was the last that allowed football and football related drills. His speed impressed the coaches but it was one-on-one skills as a defensive back that got him noticed. Following the tryout coaches were quick to let him know he was someone they would look at.
Pryor made the team, but it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. He showed up late for his first team lift and wasn’t allowed to work out. A few days later he missed his makeup lift. Within a week of making the team Pryor was cut.
“I didn’t take my opportunity serious enough,” said Pryor. “I felt absolutely terrible and extremely embarrassed that I let something like that pass me by.”
Pryor knew that he may had blown his only chance but he continued to work out in hopes of one more shot.
When spring tryouts came he went for it again and again impressed the coaches with this skills. They didn’t call. He continued to work out to prepare for the fall tryouts. Tryouts came and went and again no call.
It wasn’t until turmoil hit Penn State that Pryor would get his second chance.
“I kept in touch with one of the former coaches and they gave me another chance and they agreed that I looked like I could help the team out,” said Pryor.
The 20-year-old Pryor rejoined the team during winter conditioning. He used the time to add 20 pounds to his now 5ft 10in frame. While he has yet to see playing time, he is just trying to make the most of this second chance.
“Most people aren’t granted second chances,” said Pryor. “Right now I’m just making sure that they didn’t make a mistake by giving me another opportunity.”
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